A Little Bit Of Wonder

I am tired. So very tired.

We all are, and we all want to move on.

But remember the old times. No worries, no arguing.

Just a little bit of sunlight, at the most unusual times.

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What We All Miss: Company

It really is amazing how quickly things can change – and how we can turn a corner we never saw coming.

I was looking through and organizing – as best I could – a slew of photos I had forgotten I had taken. Little slips of time that fell through the cracks and dipped into a drawer of things long-forgotten.

Most of the photos were ones that I wasn’t sure I liked, out of focus and over-exposed. Ones that, really I didn’t think anything of when I took them. They were the throw-aways, and I didn’t think they had a purpose. Until I came across one with a sight that, just recently, seems so odd.

Groups of people together.

On this warm day in San Diego, it was a sight that I still remember. We loved the city, and we loved the seemingly endless beaches that arose from the sands. It was packed, crowded, and jovial. People sitting on their vans, friends snapping selfies, and families gathering for a picnic.

It was nearly impossible to get a photo without anyone in it – something I try to do to avoid having to track down releases. To be totally honest, I was annoyed at the time. Why couldn’t people just stand back so I could get a view?

Oh how ironic irony can really be.

Now, I WISH I could be around people like that again. I WISH we could congregate on the beach, blasting our favorite music as someone gets in the way of my photo. The laughs, the yelling, the company.

When things change for the worse, it seems we will even miss things we once hated.

If only there were people around again so I had to fight for a spot. If only we could hang out together again, and if only we could break this cycle of knowing and not knowing if it’s okay that we brushed against that person at the grocery store.

We’ll get back there again, eventually.

Let’s not take it for granted this time.

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Handling Friendships During A Pandemic – From Someone Who Doesn’t Know the Answer

No matter when I walked to class at Cleveland State, it always seemed to be dark. Whether it was when I was – surprisingly – teaching an intro communication class, or going to my own graduate course, the sunlight just always seemed to be absent.

It was a tough time in my life. The constant paperwork, the meta-theory that – to this day – makes my head spin, and the late-night scribbling with my cohort on our exit thesis. But it was also very rewarding, even if the math brought us to tears at times. It brought out the best in us, we became best-friends, and it made us think.

Looking back, we talked about everything in the communication field. We discussed old theories, we developed new theories, we learned how to manage a public crisis, and we even – which was my personal favorite – studied how to manipulate and control conversations. Every day was something different. And to this day I still think about, and use, a lot of the topics we went over in detail. However there is one theory I never really gave much thought about, one that we probably discussed some time around ten in the evening, when classes were finally letting up.

That was the theory of relationship management.

With all communication theories, there are layers to it. How to do this, how to do that, when to do this, when to do that. However there is a bottom line to it all – and that’s that relationships need work. Whether they are friendships, marriages, or anything in-between – all of them take a modicum of effort, on both parts. It can be as simple as a phone call, or as deep a grand gesture. But there is another part to this theory, and that’s that maybe some relationships aren’t worth that much at all.

COVID-19 has done much more than what a virus typically does, at least in my opinion. It’s brought out the best – and the worst in us. Friends have become enemies, enemies have become worse. But beyond all of the physical effects of the virus, there has been a different type of casualty – and that’s relationships we have with each other.

Albeit exhausting, social media can typically be quite entertaining – on a normal day. 

You can scroll for hours, seeing who is doing what, who went where, and even local drama in your community. Maybe someone drove their car too fast down a residential street and someone wants to complain. Or maybe there was a water-main break, and the citizens want to let their city know how angry they are about it. Social media can bring it all out, the good and the bad. But when a pandemic hits, a whole new animal emerges. 

Within weeks of the pandemic inching its way into our lives, things took a dark turn. Soon the posts of weekend parties turned into posts of anti-this, anti-that – or someone saying how this person did this and on and on. Almost out of nowhere, my most distant friends online – who I frankly forgot about – became conspiracy theorists, experts, and a treasure-trove of anger.

This led me to a serious debate within myself. Do I let these people go from my life, or do I roll with who they are, even if their opinions drive me to the brink.

It may seem like such a simple question – but is it? Should we remove someone from our lives because we are getting sick of what they believe in? Should we cut off a friend, or even family member because of how they are handling things?

It’s a question I struggle with on a daily basis, and one I don’t – and never will – have an answer for.

I would be lying if I told you I didn’t lose friends because of the pandemic. I would be lying to you if I told you people haven’t said to me “why don’t you go cry and write an article about it?” I would be lying to you if I told you that didn’t bother me, just a little.

However at the end of the day, I don’t want to be that person to cut people off – I don’t want to be that person to cast someone away because of their negativity.

But maybe I should be. I’m not sure.

I was always raised to not let things get between friendships. Fights, arguments, disagreements – they can all be worked out, and you can be friends with those you don’t see eye-to-eye with. And to this day I still believe that. Just because we square off at a round table, throwing out our evidence desperately trying to convince one-another, doesn’t mean can’t crack a drink and forget it all.

But at the same time, and maybe it’s just due to my growing older and tired, I don’t want to keep diving into known negativity. I don’t want to have to constantly have to prove myself, and I don’t want to have to pretend that some people are “good” people.

For this reason, I found it best to simply walk away for a moment. There is no need to get worked up about something someone said online…right?

I am not the only only, I can’t be. I have had friends, and even family mention strained relationships, all based around differing opinions on matters. I myself fall into many traps many times, maybe responding to a post when I shouldn’t – trying to call someone out on their errors knowing I will never change their mind. Even if I told them the sky was blue, I would lose the fight.

However in a strange way, I find my circle shrinking, but getting stronger. I have a wife and family that make me the happiest I have ever been, and I have friends I love and can call for anything at any time. These are the people I adore and admire, and ones I know I could get through anything with. I have even seen communities of like-minded strangers grow stronger.

So maybe we’re not “cutting” off friends, and sometimes family, that are tormenting us. Maybe we’re trimming things up, and finding out who really supports us after all. Maybe we need to forget about working out the relationships we carry that hold us down, ones we’re holding onto for no reason at all.

If a relationship, no matter big or small, is right – it can endure anything.

I will never claim to know anything for sure, and I absolutely am not telling anyone to disappear from family or friends who may irk them. But what I am saying is that, again, relationships take work. It takes understanding, it takes reassurance, and – most importantly – it takes empathy.

As hard as it is to think about, there are just some people who won’t ever care. There are people that, no matter what, will die on any hill just to prove themselves “right.” And eventually you’ll have to come up with a plan on how to handle that within yourself.

I struggle everyday with this, and who doesn’t. But what I know is that I will never stop working on the relationships that matter – the ones I know are worth it. Those are the people I will never, for any reason, turn my back on.

I may not agree with you. But if we’re all decent human beings, it won’t matter.

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The Road To Anywhere

It’s been a strange year, that is something that no one will disagree with. From COVID, to murder-hornets, to a asteroid that came flying by. It’s been a year for the record books in more ways than we could ever imagine.

But it’s not all bad.

In a way, with everything closed, it forced us to explore the world around us, and what is right in our backyards. For me personally, that was the Cleveland Metroparks – a place that I have lived close to my entire life, but never really realized its beauty until this year. Until now it was just another park.

I’m not sure if it is my imagination, or if it’s from being trapped in the same four walls for months, but the lighting always seems just perfect this year. It’s almost as if no matter the locale in the parks, the time of day, or the scene – everything just works. If one door closes, or something like that.

Sometimes I like to think about what the world would be like without us. And every once in a while the world shows me.

Even closed roads look beautiful, quiet and calm. You’d never know the world was in turmoil. You’d never know something was off.

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I Didn’t Know I’d Be A New Parent During A Pandemic

Of course it was snowing. It always snows here when we don’t want it to. And not that kind of snow that teases you with a dusting only to vanish by mid-morning. It was a heavy snow, almost like a thick blanket, and it came nearly out of nowhere.

The maternity ward felt as though it was nearly empty. Really, it seemed as if my wife and I were the only patients — me being a “patient,” in reality. It was mostly quiet, minus the constant shrill of machines we knew nothing about more than the fact that they kept an eye on our soon-to-arrive daughter. It was serene, it was scary, but it was also strangely calming.

We were as prepared as we could have been; we did everything you were supposed to do, and still — we felt as if everything took us off-guard. 

The induction had started the evening before and the medication seemed as if that couldn’t even get our little one to arrive–she was already just as stubborn as I always am. But thinking about it now, maybe she knew something we didn’t at the time. Maybe she was aware of what was to come next, and wanted to stay on the other side just a little longer. Because let’s be honest, who would blame her?

Things weren’t progressing, until suddenly they were. The doctor rushed to the hospital in a snowstorm of a magnitude only rarely seen. Nurses running to get prepared for the most exciting moment of their evening. It all seemed so fast, such a blur. Though in reality, the process was longer than I realized. 

I’m a guy, I had no clue what I was doing. I did what was told, and what was asked of me. Little things, big things, and everything in-between. I would’ve been scared if I had the energy to, but I truly didn’t after the lack of sleep. Regardless, she was finally there. Our new baby was in our arms. Safe, healthy, and happy — it was just as everyone had said it was going to be. The only issue was that there was something brewing that we never saw coming, something no one could ever prepare us for.

The classes we took were long, but necessary. We were going to be new parents, we really had no clue what to expect, or even how to change a diaper. The information was plentiful, and we thought it trained us to be the best parents we could be — and it did help. We learned how to burp a baby, how to change a baby, and even the best ways to get them to sleep. We thought we knew it all, and maybe we did. But there are some things you just have to learn on your own.

Like how to raise a newborn during a pandemic.

It was March and our baby was only a couple months old when the stories started getting a little more worrisome. COVID-19 had reached American shores — the virus that, until that moment, we didn’t really care much about. It wasn’t affecting us, and it was just something that seemed like nothing to worry about.

I will never forget the night things really started to change. We were trying to rock our baby to sleep — she hadn’t been doing much of that. We were engrossed in learning how to be parents, I was trying to figure out how to be a dad. That night we turned on the television, and the news was suddenly dire. The NBA was shut down, travel was restricted, and lockdowns seemed imminent. Almost out of nowhere, it seemed like the floor was starting to bottom out.

If only we knew.

Only a few weeks later, the stay-at-home order in our state began. We were terrified. Were we going to be able to get enough food for the baby, let alone us? Will we have jobs? How will we get by?

Suddenly, we were living in a world we had never seen before all while still adjusting to our new roles. Shelves were bare, people had begun to panic, and no one knew what to do or what to expect. Forget just worrying about getting sick, we didn’t even know what tomorrow was going to look like. We had to keep it together somehow, and we had to do it alone. Suddenly the classes meant nothing, we forgot everything they taught us, and we were writing our own curriculum.

At the time, so little was known about the virus. How contagious was it? Who is affected? How was it spreading? There were so many questions, and we didn’t have the answers to any of them. No one did. But we didn’t want to risk anything. Not only were we in a new world with something we never could have imagined, we were doing it with a newborn, and we had to think twice — three times — about everything we did.

Our families are the closest things to us; we rely on them and their deep caring for us. They would, and do anything they can for us. But in a terrible twist, they had to step back, and protect themselves from us, and us from them. We’re not the only cases of this. People need their family, and in the darkest hour this country has seen in some time — we couldn’t. Not without a dangerous risk.

Eventually, the days began to blend together, nothing really ever seemed to change. Wake up, take care of the baby, work, eat, and wait for the evening sun to shrink below the horizon until it arose the next morning — and then you do it again. It was a routine that became more routine than any other routine I had ever had. But in a way, it kept us sane. We had a schedule to stick to, we had daily goals to accomplish — and it kept our minds off of what was going on around us.

Our newborn had no idea what was going on, and that’s a good thing. She had no clue that we were lost, we were scared, and we were figuring it out the best we could, one day at a time. But what we also took comfort in is that we weren’t alone. We weren’t the only ones with a newborn, we weren’t the only ones learning on the fly.

In the age of social media, it is so easy to connect with others who were in the same position as we were. No one really knew what to do, or how to best protect our babies. But we could help each other in any way we could, even if it was just a few words of encouragement.

In the nature of human spirit, we were strong, we learned, and we figured out the new world. But suddenly things changed again, and the enemy was no longer directly the virus – it was our own people.

Almost as if nothing had ever happened, life began to resume

Soon, the middle of summer was here, parties were going on, recreation had resumed, and life began to seem normal again — even though it wasn’t. The virus was still here, is still here, and no one seemed to notice. So every day, we assess risk on where to go, when to go there, and if the people around us are taking the virus seriously. Just another thing no class could ever possibly prepare you for.

Every day feels like seven and every situation feels like a math equation we have to solve on the fly. And even if others don’t care about the spread — everything is a risk new parents aren’t willing to take.. 

New parents have lost a lot this year. We haven’t been able to show our miracle to many of our friends or family. We can’t take her to the zoo. We can’t take her to her first baseball game. And really, we can’t even take her to parks without constant worry of “was that person too close?” Life has become worrying about why people don’t have masks, wondering why we can’t just help each other.

Eventually we will have to explain to our daughter why all of us have masks in her baby photos. A conversation many will have to have, and one that will be difficult to explain.

Occasionally, I will think about the other new parents we saw that snowy evening. I sometimes wonder where they are at, how they are feeling, and how they are coping. It’s okay for new parents in 2020 to be disappointed. It’s okay for new parents in 2020 to be scared. It’s okay for new parents in 2020 to be mad. Maybe my wife and I aren’t alone after all.

We knew we were going to have to sacrifice things when we became parents — that’s just a guarantee. We just didn’t know that we would have to do that in a new world that doesn’t seem to be easily fixed, especially any time soon.

Regardless, we’ll get by, we all will. New parents are tough people, we can do anything. And we’ll do whatever it takes.

That’s something a class can never teach you.

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A Simple Sunday

Sundays are for relaxing, unwinding, and resetting for the week. Though in 2020, they just seem to be another day — another morning to night workday.

The tasks are different, there is no clocking in or out, but the work is the same.

Maybe eventually we’ll get back to normal.

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The Warmth Around

Sometimes, everything just seems to fall into place, even when you’re not really expecting it. Big, small, anything. If you look for things to fall apart – then they will.

It was just a normal day really, but on that day – almost out of nowhere – the sun starting shining just perfectly into the room.

These objects have been in my living area for years, and until this exact moment, I had never really realized how interesting they look. It even forced me to take a vertical photo – which is something I don’t commonly do, or like how they turn out.

Things always fall into place, somehow.

Just be creative.

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A Little Stream, A Little Hope

It’s okay to be a pessimist. It’s okay to worry.

There is a lot to be sad about, there is a lot to be disappointed in – but there is hope out there.

Rivers always keep on moving, and so can you.

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A Quiet Place, In A Quiet Time

We worry, we wait, we predict, and we pray. Every day it seems like there is something new to concern ourselves with, some new tragedy that will take us down. However, the world goes on around us. And while it can be cruel – it can be calming, and soothing. Even if that is only a facade for what comes tomorrow.

At this point, you take a win when you can, smile when it comes across. For some, that means talking to friends – even virtually. For some, that’s reading a book they have been putting down for months. For some, it’s doing nothing at all.

There are plenty of things to get mad about, people to complain about, and things to get dissapointed over. We’ve lost a lot, gained nothing – and there is nothing we can do about it. But in a way, maybe that’s the best part.

There is nothing we can do but wait, and watch the leaves change color.

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Let’s Face It – We Lost

Sometimes, you have just to throw in the towel, call it a day, and admit that your best just wasn’t good enough. Unfortunately, that seems to be the situation we are in.

Every day there is new news, there are counts, and there are predictions. The days go on, and the outlook becomes more bleak by the second, but for some reason – no one seems to really care. The worry only appears in their minds when COVID has reached their front door, or maybe a relative.

The days go by and more and more names are added to seemingly never ending list of those who we have lost to a monster that seems too difficult to overcome, even though we are apparently the only one with this problem. Some of us pretend we have a handle on it, some of us pretend it’s “not that bad,” and worst of all, some of us pretend it’s not there at all – the ignorance of such an enormous enemy astounding. But in reality, we have already lost the battle, we have lost to something we will never be able to see – and it’s all our fault.

I am no saint, I am not perfect, and I have no idea how to stop this virus. But what I can say is that I tried, I gave it my best – even if that meant I was alone in the fight. I wasn’t willing to put others at risk, even if my measures of safety did “not that much.” I wasn’t willing to play Russian Roulette with other lives because I didn’t want to be inconvenienced. And I never foolishly complained that my rights were being taken away – which is just an excuse for not wanting to admit that you truly don’t care.

I just wish others would offer the same respect.

At the end of the day, I am tired. I am tired of doing anything I can to do my part in the effort, only for others to not do the same. I am tired of caring for others, and doing things for strangers I never thought I would do – only for some of them to look me in the face and laugh, or announce to me how much of a sheep I am, and simply not care for me.

More than anything else, this is what upsets me the most.

What you can do isn’t that difficult, it isn’t that hard, and it isn’t something that will change your life forever. Wear a mask, keep your distance, and just try to do your best. But for some, that task seems just too difficult. Whether it’s bravado, or just plain ignorance, the annoyance is the same. And the sadness I feel from this trend can be overwhelming.

I don’t want this to be the new normal. I don’t want our lives to become nothing but worry, despair, and confusion on what is coming next. I don’t want our new normal to be constantly worrying about friends and family, or if that cough could be something more. I will do anything I can to stop this, even if that means being told I am uninformed or misguided. I would rather try my best, even if others don’t do that for me.

But sadly, I think this will be our own normal – and it’s all our fault.

We don’t really care for others, we don’t really think about anyone else, and we are destined to be in this vicious cycle forever. Again, I don’t claim to know all of the answers, but I am intelligent enough to know the ways we can try – and not give ridiculous excuses for why I can’t, or won’t, even attempt the simplest things.

I haven’t been around this world for too long, just a couple decades, but even in that short time I can see a crack in our mindset that is disturbing.

Since I was a kid, I always thought of this country and it’s citizens as kind, strong, ambitious, and caring. However since the moment this thing began, I suddenly began to see those standards wash away. We have turned into the “me first” nation, the nation who believes it will never happen here, it will never happen to us, and if I’m okay, then everyone else must be too.

But that’s not how the world works. We have taken a hit, and ignoring the bleeding will only make things worse.

Somehow, we have all become experts, we all know what’s best, and we all know what’s real and what isn’t – and that’s an insult to the very people doing their best to end this the fastest they can, doctors.

When doctors signed up for med school, they wanted to help people, they wanted to cure patients, and they wanted to make a difference. They spend years in school, sometimes a decade learning the trade, getting the experience, and pushing off their own lives so they can improve ours. They delay marriage, kids, and their entire life so they can be prepared for when they are called – and when they finally are, we don’t believe them.

It’s shameful. It’s shameful to believe a group of selfless people who have dedicated their entire lives for this moment have to suddenly fight a war on two fronts, both crushing.

On one hand, the virus just won’t quit, it won’t stop, and it keeps finding ways to baffle science. It’s an enemy that seems to never run out of oxygen, and never sleeps. But on the other hand they also have to fight the very citizens they’re trying to protect. They work day and night, only to be told they’re part of “the system” and are trying to dupe the public into a world of deceit, and control. It’s a battle they were never trained to fight, and it’s a battle I will forever back them on. They don’t deserve to feel like the problem, they don’t deserve to feel like they’re making things worse – but the worst of us are getting louder, and making the solution become dangerously hard to attain.

I would never ask anyone to jump into blind faith of anyone, it wouldn’t be far. But it’s okay to admit that someone knows more than you, and that there is no dark figure behind the curtain trying to pull strings to ruin your life at the end of the day, you’re not that interesting. Doctors are doing their best, nurses are doing their best, and they’re going to continue doing they’re best even though people fight them at every turn.

Doctors do anything to help anyone, but they do have backup, a backup that may be even more devilish to some – the media.

If it weren’t for the media, we wouldn’t have knowledge of what’s going on next door, of how other countries have handled it, or what tactics have proven fatally inaccurate. 

Before this even began, as I have written on in the past, the media has been vilified as another dark entity that is going to consume the world. People assume they lie, cheat, and just make things worse – only because these people are unwilling to accept the reality that is, well, reality. But in a sense, they have become science’s best friend and confidant – a band of misfits, if you will.

Just like doctors, the media doesn’t care what you think of them, they don’t care that you don’t believe them, and they will report the truth anyway. They will let you know of the progress of medicine, who is working hard and who isn’t. They will inform you when a vaccine is on the way, or when we have to go back to the drawing board. Most importantly, they will tell you when envelopes have been passed, and when we need to buckle down on who we let lead us through whatever this is.

I have friends who are doctors, I have friends who are in the media – and they are the true unsung heroes of this time. They have seen things that no one should ever see, and have had to make decisions that would haunt some of us forever.  And if that earlier sentence makes you cringe, maybe you should be the one reevaluating yourself. Maybe you should look into the mirror and ask yourself why you attack the best we have to offer. After all, when we’re in a war, you don’t blame the soldiers for getting us in there in the first place.

This virus has done a lot, but this virus never took away our rights, it never made us “less American,” and it never threatened the freedoms we hold dead. However, it did take other precious things from us. It took birthdays away from us, it took vacations away from us, it even took prom away from us – but all of these pale in comparison to what we really lost. This virus took our friends, friends who didn’t need to die, and didn’t need to be in pain. It took our families, some whole, never to have another Christmas, or another graduation.

There is no way around it – if you’re worried about the false narrative that this is somehow stealing your rights, then you’re horribly misguided. You’re not thinking about the things it really did take from us, the people in our lives that we will never get back, their stories ended abruptly because we couldn’t quell our own selfishness.

I don’t have the answers. I wish I did. But I know when to call it a day. 

We haven’t lost the war just yet, but we have yet to win a battle. Like a snake eating their own tail, I just hope we can realize the bed we made, and I hope we refuse to lie in it.

This isn’t a world I want to live in, and I hope you don’t either. But until we realize our own flaws, and trust the knowledge that we do have – we are doomed to repeat history, day by day.

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